Summary: The history of the chemical analysis of minerals is shortly reviewed. Following rapid developments between 1770 and 1810, few important changes took place for close on 130 years; new procedures led to simpler and more convenient separations but not, on the whole, to greater accuracy. The older analyses are, in general, neither worse nor better than modern ones, and analyses can only be assessed on internal evidence, if available, or on the reputation of the analyst.
The development of microchemical and colorimetric techniques in the last 40 years has resulted in a great reduction in the amount of material required for a mineral analysis; 5 to 20 mg is usually sufficient, and in favourable cases a complete analysis may be possible on less than I mg. Some modern instrumental methods are considered, and it is concluded that they cannot wholly replace the classical wet-chemical methods in their modern developments.
W. F. Hillebrand (1894) deplored the tendency of some petrologists to demand large numbers of very incomplete rock analyses, and his remarks are considered apposite today.